Five Tips on Tough Conversations for Non-Confrontational People

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I’m one of the least confrontational people you’ll ever meet, and it’s not because I claim to be an angel of a person or anything. It’s mostly that I hate tension. I can’t stand knowing that someone is mad at me or may be unhappy with a message I have to deliver.

My go-to strategy used to be to avoid a problem entirely, hoping it resolved itself. When it didn’t, I would bottle my frustration up or complain about it constantly to my mom. Spoiler alert: that didn’t solve the issue either. Now I’m making a pointed effort to address my problems head on, even if that means spending a few minutes having an uncomfortable conversation. As it turns out, this is actually a much more effective way to do things, despite the temporary awkwardness.

I’ve had to have two fairly uncomfortable discussions over the past few days, one relating to work and one about a miscommunication with a friend. I dreaded both of them, because I knew the person I was talking to may be upset by what I had to say. But instead of just pretending everything was fine, I dealt with the situation and feel so much better now. Here are some things I’ve learned from those experiences:

  • Realize that you’re trying to do something productive:  When you know that you’re having a difficult conversation so that you can resolve a problem, it makes it easier to start the talk. You truly are coming from a positive place and are looking to find a solution. The point isn’t to embarrass someone or make them feel bad.
  • Keep it short and sweet: When I’m uncomfortable, I ramble and try to make jokes to diffuse the awkwardness, which only drags the conversation out. Instead, it’s better to get to the point, come up with a solution, and move on.
  • Talk when you’re calm: If someone’s done something to really upset you and you need to have a conversation about it, wait until you’ve cooled off before you chat. It may feel good to let them have it in the heat of the moment, but you’ll probably end up regretting words you said when you were mad. Plus, people get defensive when they hear anger in your voice. When you can talk about the facts of the issue in a calm tone, you make your point more effectively.
  • But don’t let the situation go without being addressed: However, once you’ve calmed down, don’t try to talk yourself out of addressing the problem. You may feel okay now, but if it really was an issue, it needs to be discussed.
  • Don’t apologize: Sometimes when I’m uncomfortable, I start apologizing for what I’m saying, even if I really do mean it. This negates the whole dialogue. Say what you need to say, and don’t apologize for it.

Even if you loathe having tough talks like I do, hopefully these tips can help you get through them and find a solution to the problem. Your friends/family/other people who listen to you rant and rave will probably thank you, plus you’ll find that you’re a lot less stressed when the issue gets resolved, even if the actual resolving part sort of sucks.

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